Mets, Molina continue slowest-ever game of Chicken

Every time I read an update on the Mets’ pursuit of Bengie Molina, I think about the following scene from the best television show of all-time:

The latest report — the one linked above — says the Mets are willing to give Molina a one-year deal with a vesting option, but Molina is holding fast in his demand for three years. Obviously.

I spend a lot of time making fun of Molina in this space because he’s incredibly slow and he’s not fun to watch and he’s an old, overweight catcher, but I don’t actually think a one-year deal for the man would be the worst thing in the world. He’ll be a catcher, and he’ll hit a few home runs, and he won’t get on base enough to clog up the basepaths.

That would be, I suppose, the baseball equivalent of the end of the scene linked above, which unfortunately is not included in the clip — GOB and Buster plow into each other in slow motion. It is silly, but ultimately harmless.

The vesting option is troubling, and it seems as though vesting options may be becoming Omar Minaya’s new folly of choice, but without the details it would be hard to analyze.

Going past one guaranteed year, though, for a 35-year-old catcher who is pretty obviously not in prime physical condition, doesn’t strike me as a good idea. Not when Josh Thole is readying himself in Triple-A, or when both Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez could be free agents next offseason, or when the catcher in question isn’t that good to begin with.

Defenders of the deal point to Molina’s ability to handle pitching staffs. Always. And that’s nice. All I can say to counter that is that people said the exact same thing about Brian Schneider two years ago, only to have Dan Warthen throw Schneider under the bus for the same quality this season.

Handling a pitching staff, I would guess, is the type of thing to which there is actual value, but for which a catcher’s ability varies greatly by situation and pitcher and is impossible to completely define. Maybe Brian Schneider really was great for the Nationals’ young pitchers in 2007, and heck, maybe he was great for Mike Pelfrey in 2008, but for some reason his Brian Schneider Staff-Handling Magic Dust was not as effective on John Maine and Oliver Perez. Maybe Bengie Molina’s will be, or maybe it won’t be, or maybe it’s nonsense. Since it’s not something I imagine could ever be properly evaluated, it’s not something I would ever recommend paying for.

I imagine if the Mets sign Molina, he proves to be a nice guy, and Perez gets off to a nice start, you’ll hear a ton of talk about Molina’s positive influence on Ollie. Then, when Perez inevitably tanks, no one will say anything about how Molina has stopped being able to handle him. That’s how these things work.

Again, that’s not to say they’re not there. They are, I’m sure. But we never really know to what extent, and so mostly they just make for good stories.

Anyway, none of that will matter until someone chickens out and gives in to the other’s demands or they agree on a compromise. The Mets have more leverage as long as Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas are still available, but Molina can lord over the Mets his indisputable Bengie Molina-dom, which they apparently value.

15 thoughts on “Mets, Molina continue slowest-ever game of Chicken

  1. The thing I like to harp on about Molina that’s not his ability to handle a pitching staff (at least directly) is his durability. My biggest problem with Brian Schneider’s time in Flushing was the revolving door catching system that was in place. Having to learn to throw to a different receiver every three starts can’t be good for a pitching staff. Molina has played at least 117 games in seven out of the last eight seasons, each of the last five seasons, at no fewer than his 132 games from 2009 in any of the last three seasons. The Mets haven’t had a catcher start at least 117 games since Mike Piazza started 129 in 2004, a year they made quite a bit out of a pretty underwhelming pitching staff.

    I’m pretty afraid of a vesting option though. He’d be perfectly acceptable on a one year deal, but any more than that and the problems start to overshadow the benefits.

  2. Whoops, that is, they haven’t had anyone play in as many games since Mike Piazza in 2004, which of course, silly me, was the year of the awful first base experiment. That doesn’t really make the point about Molina any different, but it was a fact-check fail on my part.

  3. AD is close to the greatest show of all time, but The Wire easily takes that distinction. In fact nearly every HBO show does, Rome could have been Big Love is right up there we all know bout the Sopranos and Entourage, although sometimes lacking a direction is fun as hell. And we can never forget about It’s Always Sunny

    • AD is the greatest comedy of all time; The Wire is the best drama. I don’t really know how to compare the two. I consider them my co-#1s. Personally I don’t think Rome or the Sopranos should be mentioned in the same breath as The Wire. Entourage is not very good. It’s Always Sunny is, IMO, a trying-too-hard, tasteless, frat boy attempt at an an absurd comedy.

      As for Bengie Molina, a one year deal with a vesting option that is not “easily attainable” is fine. Anything more is not. There’s no reason for Omar to compromise. Which probably means he will give Molina a guaranteed second year.

      • I love The Wire, and I think it probably is actually on equal footing with AD. But I think people — and especially critics — tend to overrate dramas relative to comedies when debating labels like “greatest ever,” and so I like to give Arrested Development due credit. Every moment of the show was masterfully crafted. It was, as I’ve said before, as if James Joyce wrote a sitcom, only it made sense. I recently convinced my wife to finally watch the entire series in order, and even though it’s probably the 7th or 8th time I’ve done so, I’m still picking up new intricacies.

        I loved certain seasons of the Sopranos, never really got into Rome or Big Love, and can’t stomach Entourage. There are parts and episodes of It’s Always Sunny that make me laugh as hard as anything I’ve seen on TV — most notably the one when Mac and Charlie fake their deaths — but usually I find it funny, but forgettable.

        The only problem with the Wire, I think, was that the 5th season was a bit of a departure from the awesomeness that was the rest of the series. The fictional serial killer thing seemed a bit too far-fetched to me, even for McNulty, and I just didn’t care about the Baltimore Sun subplot. Arrested Development’s last season wasn’t as good as its prior two, either, but it didn’t really get a chance to completely tumble downhill.

      • I understand why many dislike Entourage, due to its lack of direction and AD did way more in 22 minutes than most entourage seasons could do. I didn’t mean to compare The Wire to AD as Comedy v. Drama, it was just a strict comparison of best show ever. The last season of AD was outstanding IMO, and the finale of The Wire was obviously rushed by HBO cutting it to 10 episodes which was a bad bad move. We could tell from about the first 4 episodes that it was a a normal Wire season then everything had to be accelerated and the stories got convoluted. Nevertheless, seasons 1, 3 and 4 were the best television of all time. The range of demographics of who watched the show from people over at SOHH.com and realhiphop to guys here and at AA to the NYtimes also has played a big role in my evidence that this was the best show of all time. This wasn’t mindless trash that all sides of the spectrum embraced like Scarface or some outlandish premises a la CSI or Law and Order.

        Also, I am probably bias about HBO in regards to Big Love but it is a personal fav. and I really think everyone should give Rome a try. It could be that I am a history nut though and find the relative dramatizing of Augustus, Antony and Caesar’s lives that interests me.

        Finally, Green Man and Project Bad ass are two of the funniest things I think I have ever seen on TV. Along with the episode where Charlie and Dee have to live each others lives is some funny funny stuff.

      • Sunny has gotten increasingly more “trying-to-hard” feeling. The first three seasons were excellent; legit character development and unique humor. But starting some time in the fourth season, it just seemed like they started trying wayyyyy too hard to play on each character’s idiosyncrasies instead of letting the humor come out of the narrative and dialogue. By the end of the fifth season, they’ve basically been reduced to concepts and gimmicks instead of characters.

        I still really want to see some Boldly Going Nowhere though. I was pissed, but unsurprised that Fox didn’t pick it up for the fall/winter 2009.

      • I agree with this. I started watching Sunny a few months ago and have basically caught up with seasons 1-3 and all of season 5. The current episodes are still funny, but not even close to the first three seasons. I think the notion of “trying too hard” fits perfectly.

        Also, as the OG stated above, it’s a funny but forgettable show. I don’t see any lasting impact.

  4. Obviously you are not taking into account the market as a whole. Jason Kendall a washed -up catcher signs a two year deal, Ivan Rodriguez, way past his prime, a two year deal. Benjie Molina is way above those two and he doesn’t deserve two years?

    • That’s a good point, but those guys both took about half the money Molina is reportedly asking for. Plus, I don’t think basing decisions on what the Royals and Nationals do is necessarily the best strategy moving forward.

      I think, if anything, those deals helped the Mets, as they left fewer teams looking for catchers. Molina, Barajas, Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba are out there, and I’m not sure there’s a team besides the Mets searching for a starting catcher. The Rockies need someone to spell Chris Iannetta, the Padres apparently want a mentor/backup for Nick Hundley, and the Rangers need an insurance policy for Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Taylor Teagarden, but none of those things necessarily spells a lucrative two-year deal. So it seems like the market favors the Mets right now, as long as they’re not too locked into Molina as their guy.

      • This. If they’re super patient, which they can afford to be with all the marginally better than replacement level catchers they’ve stocked up on, I bet they could get Bengie without the option. No one’s offering him a better deal. And that’s what dictates the market, not the deals that have already happened, no matter what the player’s agent wants you to believe.

  5. Good point Ted. This is a good chance to see if Mets can really negotiate in a Market that favors them. If and more likely when they give Molina a 3rd year, you really have to question Mets management. Mets have to have more flexibility. Take advantage of one year deals close to spring training on position players and making sure pitching stays a priority.

  6. Though it is appropriate that the Slowest Game of Chicken should involve Benjie Molina, what are the odds that the Mets can get Mauer or Victor Martinez next year? How much will payroll go up to get either guy? What are the odds that Josh Thole will become the real deal and be a left handed Paul LoDuca? Even a one year deal with an option would block Thole and Mauer/Martinez.

  7. Not only are Olivo and Barajas still out there, don’t the Mets also now have Blanco and Coste to go with Thole and Santos? Seems like the Mets have leverage here and need to use it. Seems like Warthen was trying to protect his job with that stuff. He should not be brought back in my opinion. Is he?

    Since we are talking about best shows ever here, I have to throw 30 Rock out there. I loved A.D., but Ron Howard’s narrating always took a little away for me. The writing and characters on 30 Rock are right up there with anything done in sitcoms before. Plus, it’s got Wil Arnett making some killer guest appearances.

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